BLOG: Thrilling Wales Rally GB Dedicated to #ParisAttacks

Well, as usual, Wales Rally GB did not disappoint the tens of thousands of fans who lined the sodden,  storm-battered, heritage-rich special stages – it was a classic, and poignantly so as winner Sebastian Ogier dedicated his third WRGB victory to the victims of the Paris Attacks.
Volkswagen team-mate and main rival Jari-Matti-Latvala was the first to be eaten up by the tricky, slippery, ever-changing grip conditions of the forests (crashing our on the short spectator special, SS2, Sweet Lamb) – leaving the door wide open for World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier to lead from SS1 to SS19 and claim his third WRGB win on the bounce, then emotionally dedicate it to the Paris terror victims. What a driver. What a gentleman.
The next best was Brit Kris Meeke, home in P2, separating Ogier from a flying teammate Andeas Mikkelsen, and helping Citroen Racing beat Hyundai, to claim second in the manufacture's title – a lifetime behind the uber-domiant Volkswagen Motorsport team.
Incredibly – and fittingly, given the fact it was the 20th anniversary of his mentor Colin McRae's 1995 WRC victory, sealed in Wales – Kris Meeke is the first British driver to score a podium on the only home-WRC event in 14 years. Local hero Elfyn Evans recorded a solid seventh top six finish of his sophomore season, after a puncture on day one cost him dearly. And Hyundai's Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon came in forth and fifth respectively, with solid drives (both with transmission issues, leading to traction issues and spins) in the tricky conditions – unlike poor old Thierry Neuville, who was the second largest scalp the Welsh forests claimed, wiping his i20 out on a classic pile of forestry logs, in a big shunt, ending his difficult 2016 season. The third was Ott Tänak, who rolled out of a decent forth place for M-Sport, summing up their inconsistent run in 2015.
Driving through Storm Abigail, the remnants of Hurricane Kate, and with gale force winds, standing water and driving rain, triple World Champion Ogier led from the start – even with his mind clearly on the events unfolding in Paris. You have to admire his temperament.
As you have to Kris Meeke, who was under huge pressure to live up to Colin's name and show pace and come home with a solid result on home gravel, to net Citroen second in the manufacture's championship. And maybe just enough to keep a seat in 2016, with three podiums for the 36-year-old...?
“It’s been a very difficult weekend with the events elsewhere,” acknowledged the 31-year-old. “Mentally, it wasn’t easy to continue after what happened on Friday in France, but in these situations, you have to carry on even stronger than before and remain united.
“Now is not the time to celebrate and it’s not easy for me to find the right words to say at the moment, but as a small sign of support, I want to dedicate this victory to the memory of all those who lost their lives and everybody else affected by these tragic events.”
Kris Meeke said: “This was probably my strongest performance to date. It was a better drive than when I won in Argentina earlier this year. It was obviously a tough rally, but we established a really good set-up for the car, settled into a good rhythm and I felt very comfortable.
“We did the job we set out to do and ticked both boxes with the podium and second place for Citroën in the manufacturers’ standings. This is also my first second place in the WRC, and it’s nice to score it this weekend, 20 years on from Colin McRae’s famous victory. His spirit can always be felt at Rally GB, right down to the people out on the stages bearing Scottish flags.
“To be the first British driver to finish on the podium here in 14 years is fantastic for me and for all the loyal fans. Their support in this weather has been incredible, so hats off to them.”
Local boy Evans said: “We had a really good feeling in the car this weekend, so it was a shame about the puncture on Friday – that made it a case of what might have been. It’s been a difficult rally with very changeable grip levels, especially on Saturday when it rained pretty hard – but that’s all part of the challenge of Wales Rally GB and the unique character of the event.
“Historically, this has always been a tough rally from a weather point of view, but even allowing for that, I’d say conditions were some of the trickiest I’ve come across.
“The stages held up really well and the organisers did a great job to make it such a successful event; it’s not easy to run a rally in this kind of weather, but they did so without any problems so all credit to them. I also need to say a massive thank you to the fans and the marshals for staying out there – to see so many people on the stages so close to home was fantastic.”
Meanwhile, a crowd favourite, David Higgins dominated the Production and non-priority categories in his JRM Rally Group N Subaru WRX STI, coming home in P20, in his car bearing a livery that paid tribute to the 20th anniversary of the late Colin McRae’s title triumph.
Like we said, another great Wales Rally GB... and maybe the last time it will ever be the season finale, as next year, it's the penultimate round in October, with Rally Australia rounding things off. Call us old fashioned, but that just doesn't seem right eh?


1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:03:02.0
2. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (DS 3 WRC) +26.0
3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +36.2
4. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:51.3
5. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:00.5
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:09.1
7. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (DS 3 WRC) +4:28.4
8. Stéphane Lefebvre / Stéphane Prévot (DS 3 WRC) +5:38.4
9. Robert Kubica / Maciek Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:22.7
10. Lorenzo Bertelli / Lorenzo Granai (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +8:05.0


1. Sébastien Ogier 263 points
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 183 pts
3. Andreas Mikkelsen 171 pts
4. Mads Østberg 116 pts
5. Kris Meeke 112 pts
6. Thierry Neuville 90 pts
7. Elfyn Evans 89 pts
8. Dani Sordo 89 pts
12. Khalid Al-Qassimi 9 pts
19. Stéphane Lefebvre 5 pts


1. Volkswagen Motorsport 413 pts
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 230 pts
3. Hyundai Shell WRT 224 pts
4. M-Sport WRT 181 pts…


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